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Democrats Protest Budget, No Mill Rate to be Set by Deadline

The town will not have a mill rate set by the third Monday of May, as required by town charter, for the first time ever after Democrats refused to vote to pass it.

For the first time in the history of Southington, the town will not have a mill rate by the charter-set deadline on the third Monday in May.

Democrats on the Board of Finance protested the approved 2012-13 budget on Wednesday evening by refusing to set the mill rate associated with it, leaving the town without a mill rate for the upcoming fiscal year.

After a heated debate over the budget process, Sandra Feld and Anthony Casale Jr. said they could not support the 27.48 mills associated with the approved budget and voted against setting the rate, leading the motion to fail and leaving the town without a tax rate for the first time ever.

“This is extremely disappointing and it’s something that shouldn’t be happening,” said Vice-Chairman Joseph Labieniec. “Section 730 of the town charter is very clear on duties of the Board of Finance. This is not a time to debate the budget, but rather a time to set the taxation rate based solely on the mathematics behind the budget passed.”

The political battle Wednesday night in the Council Chambers at began after Feld and Casale spoke out for the second time regarding a budget process that they called “unfair” and “without compromise,” both on a Board of Finance level and Town Council level.

Both were emotional and angry as they criticized chairman John Leary and the Republicans for being unwilling to make sacrifices and supporting "frivolous and unnecessary spending" in a tough economic year rather than finding ways to give more back to the taxpayers of Southington.

“This year’s budget process was the most disgraceful one I’ve ever witnessed,” Feld said. “If going to rubber stamp the managements proposals, why even bother having Board of Finance meetings? The Republicans on both Board of Finance and Town Council have rubber stamped it despite our constant objections.”

Labieniec and board member Wayne Stanforth each defended the process, saying the board held 12 hours of workshops and members spent countless time reviewing items.

Labieniec said there was compromise – a comment that Casale questioned – and that no one was left with the budget they wanted, but that the town has maintained services and is preparing for the future, all while lowering government spending from where it is right now.

But Feld and Casale said they would not support the proposed mill rate because they did not support the budget that it was based upon.

The setting of the mill rate is a formal process that requires the board use the approved budget to set taxes for the town to levy, effective July 1. Under town charter, the board is considered derelict in its responsibilities by not setting the mill rate by this time and will now be in violation of town charter, Labieniec explained.

The approved budget of $129.7 million cannot be altered at this time and was considered passed when it was passed . The vote on a mill rate is separate from the rest of the budget process.

The same budget, with only one $195,000 line item change, had been .

The board voted 3-2 in favor of passing the mill rate, but four votes are required to gain the decisive majority necessary to pass the rate. Leary was absent due to work responsibilities.

“There are only two possibilities left for this, as the town needs to have a mill rate set for June 30 in order to prepare tax bills,” Garry Brumback said after consulting with the town attorney by phone Wednesday night.

“The board can either abdicate its responsibilities and send the matter to the town council or they can set a special meeting and take up the matter again at the earliest convenience,” he said. “If the matter is not settled in that next meeting, it will need to be forwarded along to the council.”

The most likely date for a special meeting at this point would be on May 29. Board members agreed to try and set a meeting when all six members could be present, but Stanforth questioned whether the matter should not be forwarded to the council after the Board of Finance failed in it’s responsibilities.

“This is a mathematical question, not a philosophical question. I feel like if we are not able to come to an agreement, we should allow the matter to be forwarded on. We have a responsibility and by not passing the mill rate, we have failed in this,” Stanforth said.

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Bruce Vagts, Sr. May 17, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Finance Board members who are derelict of their duty should resign or removed by the Town Attorney. If they don't want to do their job, they should resign !
Pensive May 17, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Once the Town Council passed the amended budget and sent it to the Board of Finance for a simple calculation of the mill rate; the time for meaningful debate/criticism passed. The board members who can’t comply with Town Charter mandates should resign. If they can’t play ball by the rules; go home. The Finance Board chair should have seen that the required four affirmative votes were not available and rescheduled the item. It seems like the minority party on the Council and the Board are putting a political “spin” on the process,
Arthur Cyr May 17, 2012 at 04:48 AM
I attended the meeting Wednesday night. John Leary, the Chairman of the BOF and another vote is in Europe on business until the end of the month. There is a reason that this has NEVER happened before in over 40 years of contested budgets - once the Town Council sets the budget dollars - every other BOF has done their job and set the mill rate for 45 years. Experienced and knowledgeable people did their jobs. People need to remember and recite their oath of office......... "To uphold the Charter of the Town of Southington, the Constitution of the State of Connecticut and the United States of America." I believe the Town Council chambers are available next Monday for a Special Meeting of the Board of Finance to vote 5-0 to set the mill rate at 27.48. Make it happen.
Ken C May 17, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Typical bean-counter, focus on the numbers: “This is a mathematical question, not a philosophical question." Mr. Stanforth, you have a responsibility to deal with Town process legally and not by fiat. This is a philosophical question as much as anything and one Feld and Casale have decided to ask via their vote. They are being consistent with their earlier position on the underlying budget and one SHOULD expect them to be true to their earlier position. And, by the way, it is a VOTE, not a rubber stamp, not a belt snag or twisted cog in the machinery of town financial calculation, "Come on, Feld/Casale, get with it. It's all a done deal. Vote YES and let's get this show on the road." That's Arthur Cyr, not objective thought. If it was merely a factor of calculation, heck, the Town finance manager could do that, right? Town fathers set the process of a VOTE in place as a check and balance and, surprising to those who never gave this a thought, it is doing its job. It is a VOTE, conscientiously made, consistent with board process and Feld's and Casales's previous position. Even if overridden by the Council (no doubt) they are doing the job of the voters that put them there and one should expect nothing less. Hey Wayne, amazing what the number two can do, ain't it?!
John Moise May 17, 2012 at 01:04 PM
If both Sandy and Tony voted no on the budget then why would they vote yes on a mill rate they do not approve of? Section 732 of the Town Charter states that the Board of Finance NOT the Town Council sets the Taxation rate (mill). I guess we will all have to wait until Mr. Leary gets back from his business trip for the Board of Finance (the 4 Republicans who approved this budget) to set the taxation rate. Thank you Tony and Sandy for watching out for the taxpayers of Southington.
John Moise May 17, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Art, please read section 732 of the Town Charter It is the Board of Finance NOT the Town Council who sets the Taxation rate.
Arthur Cyr May 17, 2012 at 01:50 PM
You would think that the former Chair of the BOF would get the Charter section correct. It is Section 730, not section 732; Section 730:: "Amount to be raised by taxation, tax levy." Upon adoption of the budget by the town council the board of finance SHALL fix the amount or revenue to be raised by taxation for town and school purposes combined, so as to preserve a balanced relation between receipts and expenditures including any estimated cash surplus or cash deficit from the current fiscal year. The board of finance SHALL thereupon on or before the third Monday in May in each year fix the rate of taxation on the last property grand list at a point sufficient in its judgment to produce such amount. (11-3-70; 11-2-71). Mr. Moise needs to stop giving bad advice to the new members of the Board of Finance that accomplishes nothing but delay and conflict. The amount of the total town budget will NOT change in a day or week or two weeks. Members Feld & Casale were asked what mill rate number they would propose in place of 27.48. They REFUSED to supply any number. They FAILED in their legal responsibilities to the voters of Southington. PLEASE reread the job duties and responsibilities of BOF members as stated above. It states they SHALL, not they "may" or if they agree.... it is their duty. They FAILED.
Lucy May 17, 2012 at 03:27 PM
In the end, the mill rate needs to be set by June 30. The budget has been prepared, reviewed, modified and adopted. I am not dissatisfied with the process or the budget. I think the Superintendent and Manager proposed reasonable requests, cuts were proposed, debated and decided after input from the public, BOE, BOF and TC. All the rest, as far as I am concerned, at this point, is people shouting at the rain. If the BOF tabled the item rather than go foward with an uncertain vote, the results would be the same.
Arthur Cyr May 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
By June 30th? No, as quoted above from the Southington Town Charter Section 730, "The Board of Finance SHALL thereupon on or before the third Monday in May in each year fix the rate of taxation..." The motion went forward because that's what the Charter states the Board of Finance members SHALL do - set the mill rate. Tax bills go out in June for July 1st. They can not wait until June 30th.
Southington Phoenix May 17, 2012 at 06:08 PM
The mil rate IS set by the BOF and the Council DOES approve the budget, these facts are irrefutable. However, the BOF can propose a mil rate that is not just a mathematical calculation, this is precisely why their duties are delineated in the Charter. What they do have control over is use of Undesignated Fund Balance. For example, they could set the mil rate at 26.48 reducing it by 1 mil. This would mean that approx. 4 million dollars would have to be taken from the Undesignated Fund Balance to balance the Council approved budget. You see, increases in spending come from the Managers Budget or BOE Budget and are ultimately approved by the Town Council. The BOF has the authority to determine how the money is raised, either by taxation or used of fund balance. We do receive grants and fees to offset taxation, but that is already reflected in the Council approved budget. Grants are fixed numbers in the budget and fees are estimated numbers in the budget, both are part of the revenue side of the budget. Voting no to the proposed mil rate is well within the authority of a BOF member. Making further reductions, to an already Town Council approved budget, is not within their authority at the meeting established to set the new mil rate, by charter they already had the opportunity to accomplish that objective. Use of Undesignated Fund balance and the pros and cons of that action will be left for another discussion.
Lucy May 17, 2012 at 07:04 PM
According to my crystal ball, the matter will be resolved, the mill rate will be set and life in Southington will go on...a motion was made, it failed to pass, end of...the BOF members present voted their conscience. No absolutes in this world except death and taxes and I, for one, have faith that I will receive my tax bills in a timely manner.
John Moise May 17, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Art,Thanks for the correction it is in fact section 730. The fact remains if Tony and Sandy did not vote for the budget then there is no reason to vote for the increased mil rate that the Republicans have levied on the Town Of Southington. Furthermore, there are other times in the past 40 + years that members of the BOF have voted no on the Mill rate after voting no on the budget. Sandy and Tony did not fail in their "legal responsibilities." What they have done and continue to do is stand up for the taxpayers of Southington and do what is right and not increase taxes like the republicans have. Looking forward to your response.
Arthur Cyr May 18, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Reply to John Moise; I disagree with your thoughts on the Wednesday BOF meeting, and I believe mine is more accurate having attended and watched it person. The nasty negative comments regarding this year's budget process and procedures and results were pure malarkey or manure or whatever you'd like to call it. if people are going to vote NO for a mill rate of 27.48, they have to propose a different number...... or they are just obstructionists. They REFUSED to propose a different number! You and I both know the it's fairly simple math that gets us to a mill rate of 27.48 - UNLESS your two speakers have a different proposal that would involve taking money from the Fund Balance (Reserve savings). AND I still disagree with you Mr. Moise - when the Charter states you "SHALL" and two people block the setting of the mill rate, they are both in violation of their oath of office. Finally, we get tired of hearing "I was elected by the voters." They got elected because (A)of the minority representation law mandates 4-2 and (B) there was not a choice of "None of the above" on the ballot.
John Moise May 18, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Art, I keep forgetting because you are all knowing because you sat at the BOF meeting and all the other meetings. Sad to say you really do not understand that if you vote no on the budget you don't have to vote yes on the mill rate. Some would call it flip flopping. If the 4 republicans wanted the mill rate then they all should have been at the meeting or rescheduled for when the chairman gets back. Go research the last 40 + years on the mill vote and then we will talk again. Have yourself a wonderful night. Town Hall opens at 8:30 a.m.
Arthur Cyr May 18, 2012 at 03:47 AM
At this point all readers should note that Mr. Moise is down to political excuses for the bad advise he is giving others. Watch the replay of the Wednesday BOF meeting on line or Channel 14. Several answers came out during Public Communications. Oh, and those two rookie members of the Moise Fan Club that claim they weren't able to get any significant reductions in the town budget? I guess the reduction of $195,000 a year in Fire Hydrant charges that three of us were able to get with some bipartisan cooperation & assistance was beyond their comprehension. Or is that another of what they call a "self-correction"??
John Moise May 18, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Art you are making many assumptions as usual and you are once again wrong even though you believe you are right. What is most scary is that you believe you are on the BOF and TC by the way you write. Enjoy your day in "Once Upon A Time" land. It is tv show that fits. I have steeped away from politics and am enjoying life at this time so you do not need to play political games with me. You may want to do the same...
Arthur Cyr May 18, 2012 at 12:40 PM
John Moise is wrong to the end, again. What I believe Mr. Moise, is just because you or other people may have sat on the Board of Finance for 6 or 15 years, doesn't make any of you better informed than some of us that have stayed informed this year. Things change, personnel change and some of you still act like it's 2005. I am thrilled at the changes at 75 Main Street and our new budget is proof that it is working. I am also proud of the fact that by attending many many meetings I have input and influence on what is going on in my town. Not just Board of Finance and Town Council meetings, but also committee and sub-comittee meetings - or didn't you hear about the 60 people we got to respond and stop to the Workforce Housing proposal for West Street?? And I do not believe you "stepped away" from politics...... you were dumped and discarded.
John Leary May 18, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I agree with the remarks of “Southington Phoenix”, they are valid, factual and non political. The responsibility of the Board of Finance, after the budget is approved by the Town Council, is not to change the budget or protest the budget, but to fund the budget. The only 2 options are to fund it from an existing fund balance “Rainy Day Fund” and/or by levying taxes on property. During the 11.5 hours of workshop meetings the use of fund balance was fully discussed and illustrated on a flip chart. So that option was fully covered. Members felt that having a healthy reserve fund was important to Southington. The Town Council approved the budget, by voting, according to the process. The mill rate is pure math. The grand list is valued by appraisal and the budget is approved. The BOF has the responsibility to verify the calculation for accuracy before taxes are levied. However the process for setting the mill rate includes a vote and each person is entitled to a vote.
John Moise May 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
John, I hope you are enjoying England. Your premise is flawed in many ways but I will go back to my original statement if Sandy and Tony voted no on the budget they why should they vote yes on the mill increase that is a direct result of the budget. If the mill is just mathematical then why is there a vote? When you get back to town you and the three others will be able to vote on the mill as you voted on the budget.
John Leary May 18, 2012 at 04:07 PM
John – Thanks, The trip is long hours and lots of work. --- The process includes a vote and all members are entitled to and expected to vote. The vote on the budget revenue and expense is over. BOF voted and passed it to Town Council who made a modification and approved it. So the budget is done. The pending vote of the BOF is how to fund not what to fund. We cannot change the valuation of the grand list. We cannot change the budget. We should not protest the budget, it’s too late. So we vote on how to fund the budget. So the options are to; 1) fund it with tax revenue; 2) use the reserves or 3) a combination of both. So if a member disagrees with the budget then verbally separate the two items. Tell the public “I do not approve of the budget and offer a business proposal on how to fund it.”
John Leary May 18, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the individual members of the BOF agreed on the budget with each other 99%. We have a $128 Million budget. I do not know everyone’s individual position, but differences discussed, at the end, were far less than 1% or $1.28 Million leaving us 99% or more in agreement with each other. We will move past this budget and take up important work in reviewing and updating policies that will govern Southington’s finances into the future.
Lucy May 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I don't vote none of the above, although I wish it was a category!n I simply choose not to vote for anyone who does not represent any of the principles I hold dear, which is partisan politics. This means in the last election I voted for 3 people - Mr. Pocock (BOF), Mr. Berkmoes (BofWC) & Ms. Clark (BOE)...I. may not be able to attend meetings but I am an "informed" person. Best of luck to everyone but I want to assure all of the elected and appointed officials in this town, you do not represent me, stop insulting us, it's just mathematical after all!

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